DJ Vadim: "I Ain't Nobody's Bitch"
It's Tuesday night, and Vadim Peare -- better known as the Soviet-born, London-bred, globally minded DJ Vadim -- is in Philly to play a gig.
Or rather, he's just across the river from Philly, in South Jersey, staying at the modest home of a man he'd never met before -- a fan and long-time Facebook pal who offered to host Vadim for a couple of days on his current U.S. tour.
The evening before, after he arrived, Vadim and the man had a smoke, cracked open a few beers, and then the man picked up his bass, his 17-year-old son set up his drum kit, his 15-year-old daughter stepped up to a mic to sing, Vadim grabbed a tambourine, and the foursome spent the rest of the night kicking out some tunes.
Chances are good that at the same time a few thousand miles away in Vegas, some member of the latest Era of the Superstar DJ just touched down in his chartered private jet to be whisked away to his $10,000-a-night suite to rest up for a few hours' work at a sprawling superclub that'll net a six-figure paycheck.
Would Vadim rather be there than here?
"No, because I ain't nobody's bitch," says Vadim.
"A family jam, that's my favorite shit. That's real life. Something spontaneous and real, where you just go with the flow. I don't want to be part of that corporate thing. I don't want some guy in a suit telling me, no, you can't have a mohawk, you can't have this, you can't have that, do this, do that, you can't do this, you can't do that. If you're making 12 million dollars, why do you have to be somebody's bitch? I'm not anybody's bitch."
With that last "bitch," Vadim starts laughing. In the background, his host is cracking up, too.
Vadim realizes he might sound bitter, or envious. But he insists it's happiness he's after, and for him, happiness has been making a nice-if-not-mogul-like living following his own path as a full-time musician for the better part of two decades, and being able to maintain a level of credibility and respect that allows him to weather the ever-shifting fortunes of electronic music makers in America.
"I've been DJing since '89, '90, and I can tell you I've seen a lot of things," says Vadim. "I've been to a lot of shows, I've seen a lot of musicians, I've seen a lot of great things and I've seen a lot of whack things. I've seen a lot of people come and go. I've seen people get huge overnight, and then five years later disappear."
"I mean, look at Vanilla Ice -- he was as huge as you can possibly be, and now I hear he's refurbishing houses, is that right?"
When Ice was in his brief early '90s heyday, Vadim -- who was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia (then Leningrad) and emigrated to the London suburbs with his family at a young age -- was just gaining his footing behind the decks and samplers, honing an experimental instrumental hip-hop sound that would get him signed to the U.K.'s venerable Ninja Tune a few years later and align him with other atmospheric breakbeat pioneers like DJs Shadow, Krush and Cam.
By 1995, Vadim, who was releasing singles, DJing in London clubs and dong club promotion, too, was still working his day job as a civil engineer -- his last "proper" job -- when he finally decided to take the leap into music full-time.
"The job was cool but I still remember getting to work and there was a clock right above my desk, and I'd be looking at that and thinking, I cannot wait for it to turn to five o'clock, when it turns to five o'clock I can go home and I can make music," Vadim says. "I was living with my mother at the time so I didn't have to pay rent. I was like, 'OK, I'll give myself a year to do the music thing, and if it doesn't work out I'll come back to this, being a draftsman."
Things worked out.